How my dreams of a homemade Corvair dune buggy got crushed

It was 1967, I was 15 years old, and I wanted a dune buggy. The closest sand dunes were on the other (west) side of Michigan, but this did not derail my logic. It was 1967, and dune buggies were cool. I was not cool. If I had a dune buggy, however, I would be. Or so I thought.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2019/12/03/how-my-dreams-of-a-homemade-corvair-dune-buggy-got-crushed

Great story.

Now get an old wreck of a Corvair and do this project right (aka a safe Corvair buggy).

Amazing…we did about the same thing with a VW frame and a turbocharged corvair engine. Was licenced for street use as well. Funky tail and head lights but it worked. Time frame was 1966-67…Hoover high school in Fresno Ca.
Boy…the good old days. Buggy was scary fast, lucky we weren’t killed.

It sounds like the area where you lived, was possibly Warren or Sterling Heights. I was also born in 52. Those were great days growing up in the burbs.

13-mile & Southfield. I used to ride my bike to 13 & Woodward to watch the street racers.

He did save your life.
Given that you were starting with a convertible, as you describe what you had in mind for the build, had you taken it to the sand, you would have tried to get it airborne.
On landing, it would more than likely have folded on its own, and rolled. Without a rollbar and proper seat belts, you’d have been killed.
As fond as I am of Corvairs – and one in particular – this conversion was a really bad idea.
Glad you learned something.
Glad you’re still alive.


I’m a firm believer that we learn as much or more from our failures as we do from our successes. Great story!
I’m curious, do you still own that rather unique Mark II?

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Truly Unsafe at Any Speed.

My Corvair buggy from the late 60s consisted of the front and rear suspension from a 63 Corvair, with a 2x2 steel tubing frame tying them together, a full roll bar system and a flat floor pan (no VW parts in this buggy because everyone said it could not be done).
It started out as a 4 speed trans but was too hard to keep the front end planted on the road so I put a auto trans in it which made it perfect for climbing the hills that the VW buggies could not! Notice I even used the Corvair steering wheel/column. Motorcycle mufflers (exhaust turned above engine) can be seen above the engine.


I hope you paid less than $60 for it; otherwise, it was an expensive lesson in 1960s dollars.

A buddy of mine built a Corvair “buggy” for dirt track racing against the baja bugs of the time and though he tweaked the crap out of it, it never could compete but was a fun exercise.

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I just remembered that I built a Corvair sandrail with a borrowed stick welder out of tubing, a Sunbeam Imp front suspension and the whole suspension and driveline out of a 63 Vair with weedcutter headers to boot ! It would wheel stand all the way down the block and sounded great but was totally impractical for the sand as we found out in Palm Springs.

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I do. I just showed it at Hilton Head for the first time since the crash of the Zephyr.

It was probably right around there. My uncle owned a gas station in Detroit and he grabbed it from the salvage yard. I forgot that he was complicit in this shenanigan. He bailed me out of a few situations.

Truly unsafe. At any speed! Indeed.

Not a Corvair, but this sounds like my story in the early 70’s.
Limited tools, neighbor‘s welder and skills, borrowed Sawzall, some long bolts, best buddy and my mom’s driveway.
1956 Dodge Sierra wagon, 270 Super Red Ram Hemi, beer keg gas tank. Body removed, left the firewall, dashboard and floor pan to hold the front bench seat. Frame shortened 18”, no weight on the drive axle and bald tires. You could have power braked and burned the tires right off (didn’t, no money for more tires)
Took it out in a pasture and did cookies and slid sideways across the grass.
Luckily a tire didn’t catch a rut and flip us. Ah, youthful exuberance, stupidity and luck. Sold it for $80 a few years later. Should have kept the power train.

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Good for you! Our paths crossed a couple of times in the distant past. I saw the Mark at Greenfield Village where I was a long time participant at Motor Muster. I also had a car entered one year at the Concours-type show that used to be held in Windsor. You had the misfortune of being a judge at that one, lol.
Always loved the Mark II, but yours especially!

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dodged a bullet. dune buggys are cool but corvair engined ones are too heavy at the back. you would have needed to place the engine where the rear seats were to make a corvair handle but at 15, that was beyond your skillset.

should have found a vw bug instead if you still want a dune buggy.

You really do have to take the suggestion and do it right this time. You need redemption or you will have bad carma forever.

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